From £13,100
Updated Suzuki Swift Sport gets added pace and precision, but retains its old-school entertaining handling

Our Verdict

Suzuki Swift Sport
The Swift Sport feels decidedly old-school, and is all the better for it

The Swift Sport is cheap, pretty and chuckable. Only the quality of the Ford Fiesta keeps it from best in class

  • First Drive

    Suzuki Swift Sport 1.6

    Updated Suzuki Swift Sport gets added pace and precision, but retains its old-school entertaining handling
  • First Drive

    Suzuki Swift Sport

    More nicely warmed through than really hot, but this well-sorted and likeable hatch is the best of its type.

What is it?

The new Suzuki Swift Sport is a pleasingly old-fashioned sort of hot hatchback. Going on sale in the UK next January, the warmed-up Swift has been made quicker, stronger, more powerful and more efficient; improvements necessary just to keep up in such a competitive segment as Europe’s for superminis.

But get into the detail on exactly how this little bundle of joy has been revised, and what it represents alongside other exciting superminis you might buy in 2011, and you can’t help making slightly dewey-eyed comparisons with a few of the affordable front-drivers that so many of us lusted after twenty-something years ago.

For instance, when was the last time you read about a performance car updated not with automatic engine start-stop or an E-DIFF, but a high-lift camshaft, suspension braces and synchromesh on both first and second gears? And when did any major car manufacturer dare to release a full-sized, front-driven, top-of-the-range performance supermini with less than 140bhp? My money would be on Suzuki, circa 2005, with the last Swift Sport.

What’s it like?

The new car seeks to improve on the zesty recipe of the last by degrees. A variable length intake plenum, as well as the aforementioned changes to the inlet timing and lift, have boosted peak power on the car’s 1.6-litre normally aspirated engine to 134bhp from 121, and torque up to 118lb ft – not massive hikes by any measure.

More important is the update from five forward speeds to six in the car’s manual gearbox. Those changes may only knock a couple of tenths off the car’s benchmark 0-62mph sprint performance, but they make it feel that bit quicker through the gears, and on give-and-take real world roads.

The most telling update on the Swift Sport’s suspension has been made on the torsion beam rear axle. With spring rates firmed up in greater proportion to the front, it’s also been fitted with firmer bushings which better control the camber and toe angles of the rear wheels during hard cornering and, says Suzuki, make the car respond 20 per cent quicker to the steering wheel. Despite the higher rates, the Swift rides quietly and with plenty of absorption.

Kerbweight for the car is 1045kg, putting power to weight at 128bhp per tonne – which is almost exactly what the original Peugeot 205 GTi 1.6 had, funnily enough. And the little Suzuki really isn’t so dissimilar to that wonderful old Peugeot dynamically. Those higher spring rates and firmer bushings at the rear have traded a little of the playfulness of the old car’s handling for precision; a more rigid front subframe and steering bracket have helped there too. So while the last Swift Sport would pivot beneath its driver at the slightest invitation, darting at corners and dancing through them with pointy abandon on a lifted throttle, the new one has a more rounded dynamic character. It turns in with a little less zeal, sure, but has more progressive steering response than the last car, and a very pleasing sense of accuracy and feel through the steering wheel rim.

There’s balance to the car’s chassis still – more easily accessed than in most compact front-drivers, it’s enough to paint a wide smile on your face on the right road. But there’s measure and maturity now too. The car’s quieter on the motorway, has more grip and body control when you really ask for it, but not so much of either as to rob the Swift of any rolling comfort or suppleness, or of the accessible thrills that so many modern front-drivers fail to deliver.

Should I buy one?

One or two might wish for a bit more poke. In quieter moments Suzuki’s engineers admit that they considered a turbocharger in the early stages, but decided that a car with a surfeit of chassis composure over sheer grunt – of handling capacity over performance – would be more fun.

And on the evidence of the cracking little driver’s car they’ve created, it’s hard to disagree. A Clio Cup it ain’t – but you’d certainly pick this new Suzuki over a Renaultsport Twingo or an Abarth 500. As a really affordable pocket rocket for everyday road use, it’s very well judged indeed.

Suzuki Swift Sport 1.6 VVT

Price: £14,500; Top speed: 121mph; 0-62mph: 8.7sec; Economy: 44.1mpg; CO2: 147g/km; Kerbweight: 1045kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1586cc, normally aspirated petrol; Installation: Front, transverse, front-wheel drive; Power: 134bhp at 7000rpm; Torque: 118lb ft at 4400rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
21

25 October 2011

[quote Autocar] A Clio Cup it ain’t – but you’d certainly pick this new Suzuki over a Renaultsport Twingo or an Abarth 500.[/quote] Doubt it. Clio is usefully cheaper, while the Abarth just looks more special. And stuff like that counts at this end of the market.

25 October 2011

I'm glad Suzuki brought back the Sport to its facelifted Swift. It's a truly brilliant little car. I drove one back in 2006 when it was first released, and thrashed it. It was like an old school hot hatch; it felt like it was designed to be driven on the edge. The good thing was that it was a very comfortable and relaxed cruiser too. Despite costing less than its rivals. What's more, it was very economical.

25 October 2011

[quote superstevie]Doubt it. Clio is usefully cheaper[/quote]
You mean the Twingo?

Personally I'd take the Swift over the Abarth any day.

25 October 2011

[quote Evo_ermine]

[quote superstevie]Doubt it. Clio is usefully cheaper[/quote]
You mean the Twingo?

Personally I'd take the Swift over the Abarth any day.

[/quote]

I've driven both an Abarth 500 and a Suzuki Swift Sport. I would come to the conclusion that, if you either do lots of miles or you intend to drive the car like you stole it, then the Swift is the car for you. While the 500 is economical and fun to drive, it is much more suited to fashionistas (posers), or anyone who is after a hot supermini with bags of character. I wouldn't turn down either, and which one you prefer is simply a matter of personal preference and requirements.

25 October 2011

Swift for me any day, bit more subtle, bit less chav. And that is important when middle age is fast approaching. If you are honest with yourself.

25 October 2011

Looks like the power, size and weight are all similar to a late Eighties 16v Golf, so I'm sure this will be a little cracker to drive. Would be interesting to know how the insurance cost compares with the hot Clio and VW Polo, this could be the clincher for some.

25 October 2011

I reckon that a new Sportka should be on the horizon. Ford have the engines, and the new Ka needs something to lighten it up; the option of stripes ain't gonna work, Henry.

25 October 2011

I've been looking forward to this new Swift Sport, as I really like the standard model. Sounds like it drives well, too. A couple of the exterior details are disappointing though: It would look a lot better without the obligatory 'privacy' glass, and the front light clusters look very after market.

25 October 2011

Hope they have fixed the rear seating area, the floor felt that if i stamped hard enough i might end up doing a Fred Flintstone, ie, pedaling the damn thing!,yes i felt the floor in the rear was that thin, light on sound proofing under the carpet.

Peter Cavellini.

25 October 2011

The Swift has character even in standard form and this is just the icing on the cake !! I would have it anyday over a Clio or 500 Abarth,and it will be reliable into the bargain unlike the others.

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